Dublin-born O2 chief executive Ronan Dunne has failed to dampen speculation he is exploring an £8.5 billion (€10.8 billion) management buyout attempt following the collapse of Hutchison's bid for the company.
The Sunday Telegraph reported at the weekend that the Irishman had been approached in recent weeks by private equity investors about the prospect of him leading an attempt to take the operator independent.
The moves come after EU competition regulator Margrethe Vestager last week blocked Three's parent CK Hutchison Holdings' bid to become Britain's biggest mobile telecoms network operator by acquiring O2 UK from Spain's Telefonica.
said allowing the group’s £10.3 billion (€13 billion) acquisition to proceed would have led to higher British mobile prices.
Telefonica said last month it had plenty of options for O2 UK if the Hutchison deal fell through, including finding another buyer for all or part of the business, a stock market listing, or investing further in the subsidiary. A spokesman for Mr Dunne failed to dampen speculation a buyout could be on the cards when approached by The Irish Times.
“It’s purely speculation. There are number of different options being considered from people who have approached us and we are still under contract with Hutchison until end of June,” the O2 spokesman said.
The Telegraph said discussions between investors over what would be the largest UK leveraged buyout since before the financial crisis, were at an early stage. The difference in price quoted for O2 is reportedly due to the fact Hutchison was willing to pay more to acquire the operator due to the savings it would have achieved from merging the networks.
According to the Telegraph, one consortium interested in acquiring O2 is led by Tom Alexander, the former chief executive of Orange.
– (Additional reporting: Reuters)